While Monterose considered himself an underground artist, his work, both as player and composer, remains esteemed by musicians, critics and aficionados of classic jazz. He never denied having been influenced by Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, but steadfastly refused to be pigeonholed in any particular style. “I’ve tried all my life to avoid copying. If I can’t be myself, there’s no point being in jazz.”
Even as a youngster he understood that it was pointless to copy his illustrious contemporaries. Consequently Monterose solos were always his own. And he says, “Why not play your own music if you’re a jazz player? Jazz is supposed to be self-expression. You’ve got to have a need to say something on your instrument–to get it out. If I can’t be myself, there’s no point in being in jazz.”
Monterose’s sound was, even at this fairly early stage, extraordinarily individual—echoes of Chu Berry and Coleman Hawkins in his massive tone and the odd, quotable cadences of Sonny Rollins. Yet his influence lay more in pianists. Harmonically, Monterose cited Bud Powell (which would give him a passing affinity with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean), and his solos are odd-metered whirls, half-dissolved licks and emphatic blats that seem directly linked to isolationist pianistic flourishes.
It was precisely this uncompromising insistence on going his own way, both musically and geographically, that moved jazz historian and writer David Brent Johnson to describe Monterose as “The Best Tenor You Never Heard.”